Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Review: Memory of Passion

Memory of Passion Memory of Passion by Gil Brewer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Over and over as I was reading this book I would break out into spontaneous gleeful and admiring laughter because Brewer was so twisted, so out of control, and yet so in control of this propulsive bit of tease and deny pulp fiction. Totally channeling Poe and Woolrich at their obsessive best, Brewer, with a blistering style of short sentences and short paragraphs takes the foreplay of tension to the limit. The light is red, the tachometer is at the line, the tires are smoking - won't this light ever turn green?! - and then Brewer releases the clutch (plot twist!) and we blast forward and then quickly skid to a stop and do it all over again, engine racing at an impossibly high idle. Over and over and back and forth between multiple obsessed points of view. Bill, who thinks Karen, his old girlfriend, has contacted him after 22 years. Karen/Jean, stalker, stalking Bill. Walter, serial killer, stalking Jean. Louise, Bill's wife, having an affair. From one to the next we go, but always, the narration is from the view point of extreme obsession. Don't expect depth in this psychological noir. The minds, driven by Brewer's breakneck prose pacing, are racing way too fast!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Review: Deadly Chase

Deadly Chase Deadly Chase by Carter Cullen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Great set up here as Robert Craig, our private investigator protagonist, deliberately ODs on barbiturates to get admitted to a psych ward so he can track down a bank robber held within. Cullen does a great job of building the tension throughout as he keeps moving the cheese so that Craig has to continuously adjust his strategy and tactics for recovering the loot from the robbery. Several interesting characters are introduced both as helpers and foes: an ex-cop in the psych ward, a psyche ward nurse, a gunsel for the mob, an insurance investigator, a shady PI (Ad Sharkey!), an independent charter pilot, and all these characters enliven the second half of the book. The tension and action keeps escalating to the end.

Review: Like Mink Like Murder

Like Mink Like Murder by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sammy decides to go straight after being in prison for four years for robbery after being enticed by Elva, who he is totally obsessed with, and her partner in crime Collie. He has a good job as a milkman and a steady girl when Elva shows up to tempt him back into a life of crime. A relentless cop shadowing him and a disapproving future father-in-law push him either further. An everyman, sexual obsession, a fem fatale or two, and a psychopath are common ingredients in Whittington’s crime/noir novels and this is another fine example of his work. The dialog practically pops off the page, like you’re watching a movie, and the plot screams at a breakneck pace. Yet another terrific novel from a very dependable author.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Review: Handle with Fear

Handle with Fear Handle with Fear by Thomas B. Dewey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was determined not to like this book. First, the main character Singer Batts (super dorky name) is a Shakespearean scholar and amateur criminologist. This sounds even less interesting than Nancy Drew. Second, the eccentric Batts has a partner that does his leg work and who also narrates the story, just like Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, which seemed way too derivative to me. A slew of characters are quickly introduced which I initially found confusing, however I stuck with it. Turns out that the book is great. Sure it’s got plenty of similarities to Rex Stout’s oeuvre. The plot is just as complex and satisfying, however it’s also way more violent. Batts and partner Joe Spinder get beat up or shot regularly, and it has quite a high body count for a story that I feared might have devolved into a tepid cozy mystery. Dewey wrote two other little known crime series, the detective named Mac, and the Pete Schofield books. The Singer Batts books are even less known, and unjustly so. I’m going to have to read the other three Batts books now.

The Singer Batts Mystery MEGAPACK contains all four novels for only $0.99 USD

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Review: Vixen Hollow

Vixen Hollow Vixen Hollow by Jim Harmon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The description on the back cover of this 1961 sleazer suggests that Mike Sloan is a murder suspect and to save himself he goes on a one-man crusade to find the murderer. If only that were the actual plot of the book. It's not. Mike Sloan is a cartoonist with a palsied hand from a car crash that killed his wife. He's banking on collecting on his insurance policy so he returns to his home town: Vixen Hollow. It's all scattershot from there. He chases women and is chased by juvenile delinquents. Some murders happen but he is not investigating them or on a one-man crusade. I speed read this while tending to the barbecue. It's poorly written with no redeeming qualities. Not recommended.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review: Pale Gray For Guilt

Pale Gray For Guilt Pale Gray For Guilt by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John D. MacDonald was on the top of his game with this the 9th in the Travis McGee series. One of the best in the whole 21 book series. Part of what makes this so good is that it has hardly any social commentary (the usual MacDonald pontificating with McGee as his mouthpiece) and it also does not feature the usual McGee patching the wounded girl-bird back together. What we have here is McGee out for revenge after one of his oldest and best friends is driven to bankruptcy and then murdered. McGee and Meyer execute several cons worthy of The Sting and then MacDonald again delivers a long intense climactic sequence that was his hallmark. The denouement tags both McGee and Meyer in a surprising way. Really enjoyed reading this again. Has all the best of MacDonald's writing and none of the worst.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Review: Comanche Vengeance

Comanche Vengeance Comanche Vengeance by Richard Jessup
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Starts off brutal when Sarah Phelps finds her two small children raped and murdered by Comanches. She buries them and then burns down her house and barns and rides off searching for her husband's body. After she buries him she rides after the Comanches seeking vengeance. Sarah Phelps is a dynamite character. She's tough, driven, whip-smart, and a crack-shot. Grudgingly she accepts help from Gibson Duke and the two of them track the Comanches and every chapter brings at least one new test on her quest for vengeance. They battle outlaws and Comanches multiple times. Get captured and escape. There's buffalo hunts and blizzards. She goes to hell and back to get her scalp, and to also discover love again. Awesome western, one of the best that I can ever remember reading.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Review: Pariah

Pariah Pariah by J.R. Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clint Adams, The Gunsmith, befriends a young widow who feeds and shelters those in need, some of whom are undesirable to the townsfolk, and they treat her like a pariah. She shelters a young Chinese woman who has escaped from a powerful slave trader and he means to have them both killed at any cost. Adams vows to help the women, and of course lay them, and seek vengeance on the murderous slave trader. Robert Randisi, who wrote all 460 entries in this series, is a remarkable storyteller, somehow managing to write consistently entertaining novels on a monthly basis year after year. You always know what you’re gong to get with a Gunsmith book. I’ve never read a bad one, and maybe they don’t exist. Arguably the best of the Adult Western series titles.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review: To Find Cora

To Find Cora by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After sultry wife Cora walks out on him again, Joe is obsessed with finding her and gets a lot more that he bargained for. Whittington excelled at stories about ordinary guys getting involved with psychopaths and fem fatales and here Joe gets snared with a brutal and paranoid drunk named Hall and his partner Viola, a sexy and ruthless dish, who have been hiding out in a remote farmhouse until the heat dies down from Hall’s embezzlement. The first person narrative is heavily dialog driven and it absolutely crackles with aggression, hatred, and delusional aspirations. I loved the way that Whittington took a simple plot and embellished it by injecting some unexpected characters and some pretty outrageous twists that I didn’t see coming. Another top notch story from a master of the crime-noir genre. Recommended.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Review: Valley of Violence

Valley of Violence Valley of Violence by Edwin Booth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clay Nichols comes back to the family ranch just in time for an outlaw family to kill his father, shoot him and leave him for dead, and then take over the ranch. Clay falls in love with the woman who nurses him back to health not knowing that she is the daughter of the outlaw that killed his father. The author does a fine job with pacing and plot as Clay has to figure out how to confront the outlaws without alienating the lovely daughter. I really loved the dynamic of the nearby town filled with believable characters and the fascinating perspective of the outlaw family, with half of them gone corrupt and evil, and the others weak and complacent. Booth wrote for the pulps and was a very skilled writer. Recommended.